Jailed for contempt
A Wexford hostel owner is serving 14 days in prison for contempt of court after he failed to stop using two houses for overnight accommodation in the interest of public safety.
The High Court last week heard that Brian Gilhooly of Hillcrest, Mulgannon continued to offer the premises at 43 Abbey Street Lower and 38 William Street to guests through three websites despite court orders issued since August 8.
Wexford County Council's Chief Fire Officer Maria Melia told the court that guests had stayed there during August and September.
Ms. Melia said Mr. Gilhooly had given a personal undertaking on September 19 not to use the properties as overnight guest accommodation but she saw lights in the premises that same evening and two days later, she spoke to a couple who were tourists and they informed her they had stayed at the property from September 8 and were booked to stay until September 14.
The couple said they had spoken to the owner and were aware of the closure notices concerning the property.
The Chief Fire Officer told the court she was concerned the premises appeared to have no staff on site and people staying there were provided with a combination code to access keys stored in a combination locked contained attached to the outside of both premises.
That arrangement increased the fire safety risk to guests, she believed.
Ms. Melia said she remained of the view the premises posed a serious fire safety risk to anyone staying there until fire safety works were carried out.
While the fire service was reluctant to see Mr. Gilhooly jailed, it had to take all necessary steps to seek compliance with the court orders.
Mr. Justice Brian McGovern told Mr. Gilhooly on Monday last that the committal to prison order would take effect from midday the following day (Tuesday).
He said if Mr. Gilhooly did not report to gardai at Wexford Garda Station at that time, he would issue a warrant for his arrest.
The Judge refused Mr. Gilhooly's request for an adjournment of the committal application by Wexford County Council.
There was no basis for an adjournment, he said, and evidence from the Council, represented by Dylan Redmond B.L., showed that Mr. Gilhooley had breached his undertaking.
The case arose after a member of the public made a complaint to the Wexford fire authority on July 12 last that the premises were being used as guest/house/hostel accommodation without any or any adequate fire safety measures.
A senior fire officer who inspected both premises the following day, found they failed to comply with fire safety regulations and posed a risk to persons staying there.
Mr. Gilhooly was informed of those findings and gave a written undertaking not to use the premises for overnight guest accommodation and to vacate them, Ms. Melia said.
On July 16, he confirmed that the premises had been closed and he was seeking the assistance of a fire safety consultant.
On August 1, the fire service learned the premises were still being used as guest house/hostel accommodation and a number of tourists were due to stay there, Ms. Melia said.
Closure notices were served but on August 6, she became aware the premises were still being used and that same day, she met Mr. Gilhooly coming out of the William Street premises.
He refused her access to that premises or to confirm if he had removed the closure notices.
Copies of the ntoices were posted on the front doors but has been removed by the next day, after which the Council took court proceedings.